Global WOW (Who Owns What)

Global WOW (Who Owns What)

Organisation: Modern Investor (United Kingdom)

Publication Date: 04/14/2016

Size of team/newsroom:small



The series of Modern Investor magazine data-driven stories focus on analyzing the holdings of public pension funds in the UK and elsewhere. These schemes invest trillions of euros of employees' money globally. So far we have run several stories analyzing UK local authorities pension scheme's (LGPS) holdings as well as Finnish and Chilean pension funds' portfolios, trying to figure out why these institutions have made certain investment decisions, and how those affect their returns. The objective of running this data-driven series of stories is twofold. One is to highlight and discuss some of the main challenges faced by pension funds - among them UK LGPS - as they prepare to create the larger asset pools demanded by the chancellor George Osbourne. The other is to shine a light onto their existing fund holdings, to understand what’s working well and what’s not working so well, allowing everybody to benefit from sharing the best ideas. In the spirit of learning from the experiences of others, the data Modern Investor has gathered, analysed and presented in its Global WOW (Who Owns What) series will provide guidance not just on how performance can be maintained but also how it can be improved. ‘The government will work with Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) administering authorities to ensure that they pool investments to significantly reduce costs, while maintaining overall investment performance.’ The stated aim of Chancellor George Osborne, as outlined in his July 2015 Budget, sounds simple. For the LGPS investors who will have to implement this plan, it is anything but. While covering the UK, Modern Investor has devoted a great deal of time and effort to understanding exactly what LGPS - who manage billions of pounds of public money - are investing in, particularly in terms of pooled funds. The bigger debate around the pooling of assets by the schemes themselves, driven by the chancellor, has made this information more relevant than ever.

What makes this project innovative? What was its impact?

We have created a database of pension funds' assets and investments called the 'Global WOW (Who Owns What)'. It has been developed by Modern Investor's research team. We sent some Freedom of Information requests to public institutions such as pension funds inquiring about their holding. As of today, Global WOW includes holdings of public pension funds in 12 countries, including 95 UK local authorities, as well as a bulk of retirement schemes from Finland, Australia, Chile, Colombia, Czech Republic, France, Iceland, Israel, Peru, Portugal and Sweden. This data is accurate to the end of June 2015 and was obtained mainly by sending hundreds of FOI requests to pension funds around the world. We are continuing to expand the database and updating it, which will allow us to report on the changes in pension funds' portfolios in a macro scale, which has never been done before. In order to produce final stories based on the database - primarily published online, however stories on UK local authorities holdings (LGPS) were published as a standalone supplement to the Modern Investor magazine - a team consisting of a researcher, journalist, editor and two graphic designers was set up to specifically work on this project.

Technologies used for this project:

The stories written based on the unique database are illustrated with graphics created with Photoshop. The analysis was made using Excel's pivot tables tools, fact-checking with the Lipper database and the Citywire's asset manager database.
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